Baseball Magazine

Joe Maddon’s Stages of a Ball Player

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard

I’m a huge fan of Joe Maddon, the current manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.  If you need to know how to manage the modern professional athlete, just study him.

During a Rays game I was watching, the announcer listed the stages of a pro ball player as described by Joe

Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon

Maddon.  Even though he applied them to major league ball players, there is a lot of truth in the stages when it comes to players at any level.  Here they are according to Maddon.  My take on the stages appear afterwards.

Stage 1 – I’m happy to be here.  You see this in mostly new players.  At the big league level, some new players get so caught up in the excitement of the big stadiums, the number of fans, and the awe they have of players played with and against.  They finally reached their dream but unfortunately, some cannot seem to get through the awe in order to move to the next stages.

Stage 2 – Survival mode.  After experiencing a taste of the big leagues, many players never want to play anywhere else (the minors) again.  Everything they do is an effort to stay at their current level.  They know that one bad week can result in them being sent down so every at-bat gets magnified in their head.  Their emotions tend to exist on the extremes.  A good game makes them euphoric.  A bad game causes panic.  These ups and downs can wreck havic on the mind of a player.

Stage 3 – I belong here. I can do this.  This stage is when the player starts to relax and understand that a bad game is not the end of the world.  They focus on putting in their work everyday and accept that good and bad days are going to occur.  Come what may.

Stage 4 – I want to make as much money as possible.  When players see that they have a chance to stick around for a while, many start to think that they may just be lucky enough to make this a career.  Because they know how quickly someone can leave the game, they start to focus on making as much money as quickly as they can.  Too much focus on external parts of their career can create unnecessary distractions.  For kids in amateur ball, getting your name in the paper or some other public accolade might be the equivalent.

Stage 5 – All I want to do is win.  According to Madden, this stage is the most enlightened.  Players who get here recognize that consistently doing everything to help a team win will make them 1) more happy to be here, 2) allow them to stay, 3) increase their confidence that they belong there, and 4) make them money.

Other notes:

  • Obviously, not all players move through all the above stages.  Some get stuck and never progress beyond the first or second one.  Some bypass the early ones and are able to jump right in on one of the later stages.
  • The stages don’t have to come in order.  For example, a player may come into the league and be very successful right away and move right into Stage 4 or 5.  However, when they hit their first slump, some may revert back to “survival mode” and spiral downward rather quickly.
  • Understanding where each player is according to the stages can and should impact how they are treated by coaches.  For example, if you think a player is in Survival Mode, yelling at them will probably make things worse.

I think a big reason why Joe Maddon is a successful and well-liked manager is because he understands that every player is unique in their ability and mind-set.  He understands that a one-size-fits-all coaching style is not very affective when every player is different.

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